Rishi Sunak and Humza Yousaf are alike in misleading their core supporters - Euan McColm

Politics at its most desperate and cynical as Sunak panders to the Tory right while Yousaf offers SNP fundamentalists hope of the impossible

When Rishi Sunak succeeded Liz Truss as Prime Minister last year, even those who oppose the Conservative Party surely felt some relief.

After all, during her brief residency in 10 Downing Street Truss unleashed economic chaos, making the cost-of-living crisis worse. Following three years during which the liar Boris Johnson debased the office of Prime Minister, Truss showed that the Tories had more than one senior figure who was entirely unsuitable for leadership.

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The idea that Sunak might represent a new dawn didn’t last long.

On taking office, he meekly put up with attacks from his predecessors – or “sources close to them” – and he failed to demonstrate that he had any kind of vision for the future. If such a thing as Sunakism exists, it doesn’t amount to much more than trying to hold on to power.

When Sunak became PM last October, he – quite sensibly – made a first speech outside number 10 which was business-like and unflashy. He conceded that Truss had made mistakes and told the nation that he’d been elected by leader of his party “in part” to fix things.

The new Prime Minister told us he would “unite our country, not with words, but with action” and that his government would have “integrity, professionalism and accountability at every level”. Trust had to be earned and he would do just that. By putting the needs of voters above politics, Sunak added, he would reach out and build a government that represented the “very best traditions” of his party.

There was nothing unusual about Sunak’s claim that he’d rise above politics. All national leaders must try to persuade the majority that, having won power, they will lead for all, regardless of how they vote.

Given the way in which support for the Tories had plummeted during the Johnson years and the Truss days, there was not just a moral but a political imperative for Sunak to try to bring voters together.

The PM appears to have forgotten that very quickly, indeed. If anyone now believes that Sunak gives a hoot about reaching out beyond the Tory party, they’re a fool.

In fact, the Prime Minister is not even interested in reaching across his party to those Conservatives who consider themselves of its centre.

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We now have a Prime Minister pandering to the basest instincts of the Tory right.

Last week, Sunak announced delays to a number of green initiatives, including a proposed ban on new petrol and diesel cars and new gas boilers. He also promised to scrap a number of other unpopular measures. Under his glorious leadership, there would be no “meat tax”, no state-imposed compulsion to participate in car-sharing agreements, and no need to sort household rubbish into seven different bins.

The problem with these promises is that there’s no record of the measures he opposes ever being on the cards. You will struggle to find “meat tax” proposals because none exist. Likewise, no minister has ever suggested a seven-bin arrangement or compulsory car sharing.

The Prime Minister has promised to protect us from things that weren’t going to happen. He may as well have announced an end to plans to euthanise every Golden Retriever. Sunak’s is politics at its most desperate and cynical.

It’s difficult to escape the conclusion that Sunak cooked up some threats that he knew would exercise the elderly, right-wingers who make up much of his party’s membership. He is not interested in governing for all, he is concerned with pandering to those who get fired up by reading The Telegraph’s endless coverage of the ways in which the world is going to hell.

Every opinion poll that’s been published in recent times shows the Tories heading for a defeat, and a humiliating one at that. Faced with this inevitability, Sunak is now engaged in a desperate damage limitation exercise. He is speaking only to those Tories who remain loyal to their discredited party.

I’m afraid those who believe Scotland does politics better have nothing to gloat about. Like Sunak, First Minister Humza Yousaf is interested only in speaking to the most devotedly loyal of his party’s supporters.

Yousaf’s promise to SNP members that a majority of nationalist seats in Scotland at the next General Election will mean he can begin independence negotiations with the Prime Minister of the day is undeliverable. He simply has no power to initiate such constitutional talks.

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Like Sunak, Yousaf sees polls showing support ebbing away from his party. The SNP might not, like the Conservative Party, be hurtling towards electoral humiliation but it is no longer the dominant political force it was.

The prospect of a Labour General Election victory and a Keir Starmer premiership has weakened the nationalists’ argument that only independence can “protect” Scotland from “unelected” Tory governments and with that, floating voters have begun to look elsewhere.

Sunak and Yousaf are peas in a pod, misleading their most loyal supporters in the hope that they can minimise electoral damage.

This is a grim state of affairs for anyone who isn’t a rigid, unthinking ideologue.

Rishi Sunak and Humza Yousaf lead divided parties. The PM was defeated in his first attempt to become leader by Liz Truss while the FM won fewer than half of the votes in the first round of the SNP leadership contest.

Both men entered office in positions of political weakness and both men have failed to change that reality.

We now have a First Minister who promises that which he cannot deliver and a Prime Minister who vows to protect us from that which does not exist.



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